Bridget McGraw: Arcata’s Legal Graffiti Wall – Free Expression On Middle Ground – December 23, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Graffiti is everywhere. Whether one sees graffiti as an amazing art form and means of expression, or a costly, unsightly vandalism, there is no denying that it has a presence in Arcata. How can the two viewpoints find a medium, one that allows for continued expression, but diminishes the damage to private property?

A legal wall, on public property, is the best idea. Having a place where it is acceptable and safe to throw up one’s work offers a positive outlet.

Rather than the current option of committing a crime and facing strong consequences, people would have access to a public space, which should be meant for the people and their benefit.

The Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic, June, 2009. Photo by Bridget McGraw

Simply punishing someone without giving them an alternative outlet is only a short-term band-aid. A legal wall would be that necessary redirection of energies that helps bring about true and lasting change.

For the business owners and others who do not appreciate seeing graffiti all over, this wall should help concentrate it into a specific area. This in turn should decrease the amount of graffiti on private property, because it would shift focus away from the areas currently targeted. That ultimately means that the amount of money spent covering it up and making repairs would also decrease.

For graffiti artists, and anyone who feels a desire to convey their message or leave a mark on public awareness, a legal wall would create community. It would provide a place where anyone can throw up anything, and create a dialogue between all the people who both contribute to it and view it.

A vision for the ultimate atmosphere around this space is similar to that of the Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic. It is a spot with meaning, culture, art and expression that is a safe place for people to share their ideas.

It looks different every day, as people are constantly making their own additions to it, and has become a major part of the city’s heart.

A great amount of work still needs to be done, more ideas given and actions taken, to take this from an idea in a student’s head to a visual reality.

Part of the genius of this wall is that, through the process of creating it, people collaborate and work together, which is one of the main goals of the final product itself.

Bridget McGraw is a recent transfer student at HSU, who formerly studied at Franklin College Switzerland.